Drawing Salve

Drawing salve has nothing to do with art. Rather this is drawing in the sense of ‘pulling’ and the salve is an ointment that can be applied topically to the skin in order to treat a range of problems – such as skin inflammations, boils, shards, insect venom or splinters.

History of Drawing Salve

Interestingly though, drawing salve does not actually pull anything out either – or at least not in the same way as you might imagine. The term actually dates back to ancient times when the salve was believed to ‘draw out’ evil spirits causing the ailments. Recently however the salve has become popular again and its name has lead to its being used for many ‘drawing’ applications – on splinters and shards of glass stuck in the skin, and on boils to ‘draw’ out the pus.

So its use is actually mistaken, and yet many people claim it still works. So the question is, does it, and how can it?

How Drawing Salve Works

Drawing salve is often black in color and is a salve like Aloe Vera. Its ingredients are ichthammol, phenyl alcohol, arnica montana and others. Often it will also include vitamin E, anti-inflammatory and antisceptic ingredients.

Drawing salve is actually fairly effective in removing splinters etc and the reason this works is that it softens the skin around the splinter or whatever else is in there and this then enables the body to more easily eject the foreign object. This is something that the body does naturally anyway, but by moisturizing the area and using anti-inflammatory agents you simply encourage this to work more quickly before the wound closes over it. At the same time it can encourage blood flow which will also help to create pus and as the pus is ejected from the body so too will the foreign object.

The other ingredients in the drawing salve will only help the skin, for instance vitamin E is a vitamin that is used by the body to repair and maintain skin. So while drawing salve won’t have any magical properties to help draw things out and there is no ‘sucking’ motion involved. The most active ingredient ichthammol is simply good at softening the tissue and this is how the salve works. Other topical applications then can have this same effect – using a regular moisturizer for instance will work, or alternatively you can use something like honey which will also work.

How to Use Drawing Salve

To go about using drawing salve is fortunately very easy. Simply apply a small amount to the area with the problem and rub in gently (this may be sore around the area). Leaving it on overnight can then be effective and in many cases it will only take one go to remove splinters. Otherwise in more severe cases it may take two or three nights. Once you see the end of the splinter, the glass or whatever it is causing the problem, grab it with some tweezers carefully and then pull it firmly and steadily directly outward.

To treat boils simply place on and immediately around the boil and rub in gently. Choose your product carefully and read what ingredients have been used as these can vary from brand to brand.

10 comments

  1. Anonymous Reply
    August 30, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Best article so far, actually helps the person know how to use drawing salve and what to expect!

  2. Heidi Reply
    September 17, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    Doesn't tell me how long to leave the salve on my boil.

  3. Brenda Reply
    October 15, 2015 at 5:45 am

    This answered the questions we had about Drawing salve. I am an RN and I love to obtain knowledge so I can share with others! Thanks!

  4. Anonymous Reply
    October 23, 2015 at 6:14 am

    It helps to understand drawing salve…

  5. Eve Reply
    January 21, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    Thanks, I wondered how it worked.

  6. Shad Reply
    March 3, 2016 at 2:41 am

    Place it on a band aid overnight. Repeat as necessary.

  7. Anonymous Reply
    May 14, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    Good advice

  8. Sheila Reply
    April 28, 2016 at 10:33 am

    Thank you- so direct and clear cut.

  9. Eli Reply
    June 22, 2016 at 8:34 am

    Very informative

  10. Kevin Reply
    June 29, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    Works wonders on perianal fistula. Takes a couple of days and then works great.

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